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Instagram caption:  Fishing with this beauty today!   #kenora #formerflyersalliance  #winningthetrade  #coupleofbeauties

Look. Mike’s doing alright for himself. Sure he’s got some regrets. He’s got some mightabeens. But just because he’s living the quiet life in Kenora doesn’t mean he’s hiding . It doesn’t mean that he’s living like a sad hermit, thank you very much, Mitchie. No, Mike’s doing alright. He’s still got two Stanley Cup rings sitting in a nice wooden display box on his dresser. He goes fishing every day.  He’s got three dogs, including a gangly one year old yellow lab mix that’s still enough of a puppy that sometimes he wags his tail so hard he falls over.  It’s nothing serious, not yet , but he’s making time with a nice kindergarten teacher from town named Braedyn who plays on his pickup team and always gives him tomatoes from his garden in the summer.

So sure, life's had its ups and downs, but Mikes sits out on the back porch every morning with his coffee and watches the sun rise over the lake and feels content.  

Life isn’t boring in Kenora, exactly, but still, he’s not expecting any visitors when a cloud of dust heralds a rental car coming too fast up the mile-long dirt road to get to his cabin.  And he’s sure as shit not expecting the #1 and #2 draft picks from five summers ago to get out of a dusty Honda and wave at him.  

Who the fuck gave these kids his address?  


Mike doesn't know them, has never met them before in his life. But hockey players are hockey players.  It's not like they're complicated. He takes them fishing, because what the fuck else is he supposed to do? They look happy to be asked, and Jackson at least looks like he's enjoying fishing. Chantal looks like he enjoys being on the lake, petting Mike's dogs, pretending to fish, and flirting like a 12 year old with Jackson -- flicking water at him, stealing his hat, pressing his cold drink underneath Jackson's shirt to make him shout in surprise. It's a little embarrassing, honestly, except Chantal doesn't appear to give two fucks about that, or really be capable of embarrassment at all. He flirts a little with Mike, too, maybe, in a way that makes Mike think he doesn't really know he's doing it.


“Is there a reason,” he finally brings himself to ask, “that you two invited yourself over? Or did my Instagram story of that trout from last week just lure you in?”

“You haven't seen the news?” Jackson asks. “It ought to be all over TSN, NHL notifications and shit.”

“Kid, do I look like I get NHL notifications on my phone these days?”

“The Nordiques made an offer for Jacks,” Chantal explains, ignoring that and scratching behind Jake's ears, rod neglected and lureless. “The Flyers didn't match, Jacks is coming to Quebec.”

“The Flyers didn't match?” Mike doesn't follow the game like he used to, but he still watches enough hockey that he would have bet his shirt the Flyers wouldn't let a guy like Jackson go, not when he was still young and producing and cheap.

“Hextall said --” and Jackson takes a big breath, like he's nervous about what he's going to say next, “Hextall said he wouldn't break up any more families, after what he did to you and Carter.”

“Signed his refusal to match since we're married and shit, and by the time we got off the plane he’d already announced his retirement,” Chantal adds.

And isn't that a fucking kick in the chest. Mike has a sudden overwhelming taste of bitter anger. Where would he and Jeff be now, if Hextall and Holmgren had grown a fucking conscience a few decades sooner? But it passes as quickly as it rises. And the answer is probably the same place, honestly. It's not like leaving Philly made Carts somehow more of an asshole, or staying would have made him any less of one. Or any less inclined to marry a woman and pretend he'd never told Mike he loved him.

And holy shit, the game has changed, if these kids don't mind telling their front office they're together. If they’re married . That's a good thing. A really good thing. Mike's a big enough man to be happy for them, he thinks. Even though it aches. Even though he’s still got no idea why any of that would warrant a visit to a guy who hasn’t been in the game since they were in mite.

“I’m happy for you kids, but I’m not sure what that’s got to do with --” but then Jackson’s rod jerks down, and there’s better things to talk about.  


“Hey, Oli,” Chantal says a few minutes later, “smile, I’m gonna take a pic for Insta with your fish and Richie!”  Because evidently Chantal’s idea of staying low key after a big trade is to go to Kenora and take a picture with one of the other biggest trades in Flyers’ history and then put it all over social media.  

“Bro,” Chantal says, “your arms look beast. Still keeping it tight in retirement, eh?”

Mike sighs.  

Chantal may not notice he's flirting, but Jackson does.  He rolls his eyes and smiles at Mike. And when Chantal gets bored, takes off his shirt, and abandons any pretense of fishing by jumping into the lake, Jackson laughs and says, “Watch the lines, I've already caught you once, I don't need to catch you again, you're too heavy for our line weight.”

Chantal pushes his wet hair off his face, treading water off the side of the boat and chirps, “Oh, sure, you've caught me, but what about Richie?”

“What kind of lure does he take?” Mike answers, pretending to look through his collection.

“Hey, Richie, hand me my hat,” Chantal grins, looking like mischief incarnate.

“Richie,” Jackson interrupts, while Mike's leaning over to get Chantal’s hat from the bottom of the boat, “give me your phone for a sec I want to take another pic,” and before Mike can answer, he's plucked it neatly from Mike’s back pocket.

Mike knows he's being set up now, but he leans over the boat to put the hat on Chantal's head, and Chantal pulls him over into the water.

When he comes up spluttering and gasping from the shock of cold water, Jackson’s smiling benignly in the rocking boat. “I've literally never seen him last more than an hour and a half before he gives up pretending he likes fishing and finds something else to do. Your minutes were numbered.”

“I like fishing,” Chantal protests, from where he's still holding onto Mike's arm, slippery and wet in the water next to him.

“You like playing in the water,” Jackson corrects.

“What were you gonna do if I wasn't here?” he asks back at the house, eyeing their overnight bags and apparent lack of reservations at any hotel in town.

Chantal shrugs, and grins at him, the unconcerned smile of someone young enough that he's never worried about throwing his back out for a week by sleeping in an airport chair waiting overnight for a flight, someone  who's never stayed in a truly terrible motel before. Then he winks, and steals a cherry tomato from the salad Mike's throwing together to go with the fish on the grill and doesn't even pretend like they thought it through or that he might not offer them a room for the evening. Mike swats him on the ass with the kitchen towel. Chantal steals another tomato.  

“I’m just saying,” Chantal is saying to Jackson, quiet and easy, in that tone universal to private married conversations happening in not private places, arm looped around his shoulder, when Mike comes over to hand them their plates around the deck’s fire pit.  “It’s a better host gift than a fucking fruit basket. Who wouldn't want a --”

Luc. ” Jackson laughs and shakes his head, and kisses Chantal's cheek, and then looks up noticing Mike. “Hey, wow, this looks great, thanks, Richie.”

He’s probably imagining it, but Jackson’s hand brushes against his, just a little longer than he’d expect, when he takes it from him, a flush of pink high on his cheeks that's probably just from too much afternoon sun.

“Dinner’s great.” They both thank him, Jackson polishing off his third fillet, and Mike still remembers being that young, and that hungry, burning through more energy than he does nowadays.  Chantal hops up to help him clear the plates, bumps shoulders with him at the sink, standing close enough that Mike can feel the heat of him, smell the not unpleasant scent of lake water, sweat, sunscreen and bug spray on him.

Mike comes back out to the deck, and lights some citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes away, and tries not to feel, absurdly, like he’s trying to set some mood.  They look good, the two of them, in the flickering light of the fire and the candles, though.  There’s no harm in looking.  

“Want some dessert? I’ve got some sorbet in the fridge, some strawberries.”

“Yes, please.” Jackson smiles and bites his lip, eyes lingering on Mike's.

“Oh,” Chantal says, suddenly closer than Mike thought on the patio furniture, “I thought we could just maybe...” and kisses him. Easy as falling into the water.

“Luc,” Jackson says, the unmistakable tone of a spouse who’s had the same argument over and over again, “we’ve talked about this. Dick is not actually substitute for ice cream.”  

Chantal opens his mouth, and as soon as he does Jackson continues, “Don’t you dare make a protein joke.” Chantal’s mouth snaps shut and Mike lets out a startled laugh.  

“Can I kiss you again?” Chantal asks.

“You two didn't come all the way out here to… for this...” Because he's been wondering all day why are they here? , but this isn't any kind of answer that makes sense.

“We came out because we wanted to... I mean you’re such a… and it just... and you’re so... And we get to play together now, Oli and me, and we just wanted to... And you’re just so ...” He squeezes Mike’s biceps in appreciation, like that's explanation enough, a movement that causes a lurch of arousal through Mike’s gut.

“You don’t have to,” Mike groans, but it’s a hard thing to say, in the face of whatever Chantal’s doing with his eyelashes that makes him look so goddamn fuckable.  

“We want to,” Jackson says, from his side, “if you want to.”

The thing is that Mike has given up an awful lot of his vices. Alcohol. Opiates. Jeff Carter’s stupid face. The entire city of LA. Baked goods. It’d be a cruel, hard world that expected him to turn down Luc Chantal and Oliver Jackson on their knees, looking grateful and mischievous at the same time, smiling at each other like they know a secret, and that secret is how to show someone a really good time.

But Mike tries to be a decent guy, and even though he hasn’t already had the “are we exclusive?” talk with Braedyn, Mike had kinda been thinking maybe it’d be okay if that talk wasn’t too far away.  So he sends a quick text, just a, “hey, uh, so, I know we haven’t talked about this, but...” kind of a thing, no names to keep it discreet, even if, from what he's seen on media clips, Chantal is about as capable of discretion as Mike’s yellow lab with the tail that won't stop wagging.

???????????? Braedyn texts back, and then, That sounds like a story I really want to hear this weekend. Have fun!

You won’t even believe me when I tell you but okay, Mike replies.


It turns out what Chantal and Jackson want to do is make out with each other for a while with his dick somewhere in between their mouths and then trade off turns sucking him while one strokes the other's  jaw and hair and says ridiculous things like, “Look at you, Oli, so good, show him such a good time, he deserves it, eh? Gonna treat him right ‘cause he's such a beauty,” and Mike’s chest gets all weird and clenchy.  

“Hey,” Jackson says to Chantal when it’s Chantal’s turn, evidently, “hey, you’re doing so good,” and then, looking up at Mike, “it’s the first time he’s ever done this with anyone who isn’t me.”

“Shit, really?” Mike gasps, because Chantal is sucking hard, moving his tongue against the underside of his dick.  

“Mhmmm.” Jacks nods.

“I feel special.”

“You should,” Jackson replies and then pushes Chantal's head down farther.

“I'll have to put sheets on the guest bed,” Mike says pointedly when they finally make their way back inside, “since I wasn't expecting guests tonight.”

Chants, the little shit, doesn't even notice the chirp, just grins, and does something that worms his way under Mike's arm, and says, “Sure, Richie, or we could just sleep in your bed, if you don't want to bother.”

Mike's bed is big, but he's not sure if it's three hockey players and three dogs big. He guesses he's going to find out.